Saturday, February 4, 2012

Strutters! (A Chicken Foot Souse)

Two shopping trips ago, I picked up a packet of lovely fresh cut chicken feet with the intention to turn them into “strutters”, the local name for one of this country’s famous street foods, the Chicken Foot Souse.

Traditionally made from bits of the pig (trotters, ears, etc,) a souse is a simple kind of… well… a pickle of sorts. It’s got limes, cucumbers, peppers, chives and a whole lot of other goodies in there that make for an almost sweet/hot/sour taste that is truly unique. I know that this kind of thing isn't everyone's cup of tea, but my Grandmother loved making this, especially for the liquid, and it's a taste that's part of my childhood.

Now, I’ve tried and tasted lots of different souses over the years, and much as I love pork, I really prefer the ones made from chicken feet. I know… it sounds weird to snack on feet, but trust me, at this time of year (Carnival Season), it’s a truly popular street food, and the souse vendors love to set up their stalls just opposite to St. James’ most famous bar, Smokey and Bunty.   

You know, I’ve even heard rumours that a good souse can even kill the effects of a hangover… (no wonder they're close to the drinking hubs!) Anyhoo, here's how the process went down...

First, the feet were carefully washed in water with the juice of two limes, then drained.

Next, with a very sharp knife, the toe tips were removed, along with the foot pad - Errol came to assist since I couldn't man the camera and do this part, hahahaa!

Now for the fun part… sorting and choosing the vegetables that go into it. Here are 4 limes, 2 or 3 pimento peppers, garlic – used about 3 cloves, 1 habanero pepper, chives, local celery, chadon beni (culantro), 2 cucumbers, an onion and a piece of ginger (which ended up not being needed after all).

I seasoned the chicken feet with lime juice, the 2 chopped garlic cloves, a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of chopped chadon beni and a couple dashes of Angostura bitters.

Added about 6 cups of water and mixed everything well, then I let it marinate for about 15 minutes.
I put everything in my saucepan on medium high heat, then I split a pimento pepper in half and dropped it in for some extra flavour. I brought it to a rolling boil (occasionally skimming off the impurities from the top), then scaled it back to a gentle simmer and let it go for about 20 minutes, then checked it for taste and seasoning. I added in a little more salt and an optional teaspoon of sugar, then let it cook for another 10 minutes until the meat changed colour and softened.

While that was happening I got busy chopping and slicing up the rest of the veggies, including the cucumbers - which my boy was busily chopping!
So, after the feet were boiled, I removed them from the pot and placed them in a bowl. (Threw the water out: it did its job.)
In went the sliced onions, chopped celery, chive and chadon beni, plus the sliced pimento peppers.

The habanero pepper was carefully cut, minus seeds, then added to the meat. How much you want to use all depends on your tolerance for it, but I've known some people actually put the whole pepper in there. :-)

My boy poured in 2 to 3 cups of tap water one by one until the water almost covered it up. Then it was seasoned again with some juice from the last lime, a little more salt and then in went the sliced cucumbers.

Gave it a good toss up with the tongs…
Then we let it sit for about 20 minutes so all those flavours could meld together.
Voila! Chicken Foot Souse!

I know that the presentation isn't all that here in my little bowl, but when you purchase your serving from the vendors on the street, the feet are placed upright in a medium sized Styrofoam cup, then the liquid is poured on and a few cucumber slices rest in the centre of it. (Trust me, it really looks good that way.)

Anyway, time for me to relax and think up some more dishes to show you, so until next we meet, take care of yourselves, and don’t forget to mind the pot. ;-)

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